A gang member convicted of fatally shooting a 19-year-old Orange County woman whose decomposing body was found in an ice chest stashed in a stolen car in an unincorporated area near Whittier was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years to life in state prison.
Anthony Robert Moreno, who will turn 41 next month, was convicted July 12 of first-degree murder for the Nov. 24, 2015, slaying of Dawn "Molly'' McEveety of Huntington Beach.
The downtown Los Angeles jury also found true allegations that Moreno personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury and death and that the crime was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of and in association with a criminal street gang, along with a separate charge of possession of a firearm by a felon.
"Your actions took away an innocent girl's life,'' the young woman's mother, Maura McEveety-Sepa, told the defendant. "She was only half your age when you killed her ... All we have is our memories ... Fortunately, you cannot take those away.''
She said she hoped Moreno would "never have the opportunity to take another life again.''
The victim's father, Michael Sepa, clutched a framed photo of his daughter as he walked up to a courtroom dais to speak.
Speaking directly to the defendant, the woman's father said, "I don't know what made you do this. I hope you have some sorrow in your heart for what happened.''
Top news of the day
One of the woman's friends, Kaitlin Perry, also addressed Moreno, asking why he shot McEveety.
"You decided that her life meant nothing,'' she told the defendant.
"You took her last breath. You took her last heartbeat ... Everything's tainted with the thought of you.''
Moreno armed himself with a gun and shot McEveety in the detached garage of an Artesia home that was a known gang hangout, according to Deputy Los Angeles County District Attorney John Chang.
The young woman was not affiliated with a gang, according to the prosecutor.
Superior Court Judge Laura F. Priver called the victim an "innocent individual'' who was "clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time.''
McEveety's remains were discovered by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies five days later inside a 1991 Toyota Celica Hatchback in the 8600 block of Bradwell Avenue when they responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle.
The deputies immediately smelled the strong odor of decomposition, opened the vehicle and found the body entombed in an ice chest in the rear cargo area, authorities said.
Moreno was arrested on an unrelated crime some time after the shooting and was sent to prison in that case, authorities said. He was subsequently returned to stand trial in connection with the killing.